Dreaming of Celebrity Genes: Donor–Look-alike Sperm Bank Comes to NYC

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Photo: Cryobank.com

Five weeks ago, Los Angeles–based sperm bank California Cryobank launched a celebrity-inspired "Donor Look-A-Likes" service, which allowed clients to search for donors according to what celebrities the donors most resemble. The service, which is a catchy way of answering the question of what donors look like without having to actually reveal their pictures, was an instant hit: The company's website was inundated by inquiries (300 percent more than usual) from women who want their artificially inseminated progeny to look like David Beckham or Jon Hamm.

Now California Cryobank is diversifying again, with a move to New York — they'll be taking over Park Avenue Fertility, a small operation that had previously been mostly in the business of testing sperm rather than hawking it. It will be a few months before California Cryobank hangs its sign over the door, but New York women in the market for some A-list-looking semen can start searching online now.  

The company’s process of attributing a celebrity to a donor could never be termed scientific. Male and female employees of varying ages make up the assigning committee. They meet, put each donor’s picture up on a projector, and then argue about whom he looks like. Scott Brown, California Cryobank’s communications manager, says it’s more complex than it seems. “There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not just sitting in a room deciding who looks like Ben Affleck,” he says. “What sounded really easy got complicated when we realized that people see people in completely different ways. So we’re very concerned about misleading clients. One rule we made was that a donor never gets just one celeb. And one of our representatives can always get on the phone and explain.” 

So far regular-guy-type actors Paul Walker, Greg Grunberg (from Heroes and Alias), Scott Caan, and Ben Affleck have garnered the most interest; Brown says guys with dark hair and blue eyes do best. Sportsmen are popular, too — Brett Favre, basketballer Luke Walton, and Jeremy Shockey in particular. If C- and D-list studs are more your style, Lance Bass, Adam Carolla, and Joe Rogan types make the celeb search engine, too.

Manhattan’s sperm banks don’t seem to be bothered by the company’s move east — or by its gimmick. “The idea of matching [donors] to some ideal has always been a goal. Different companies have different approaches,” says Stephen Feldschuh, chief operating officer of Idant Laboratories, a bank that sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing or a good thing. If they’re comfortable with it, that’s fine. It’s not something we’re considering.” Ty Kaliski, director of operations for Cryo International, is similarly unperturbed. “It’s something I never thought of. If it gives clients another picture, that’s great. With us it’s more important to speak directly to the client about the personality. And all of our clients focus on the health aspect.”

Ah, yes, the health of the donor — shouldn’t that be utmost in the minds of California Cryobank clients, too? “I think in their heads they know the medical history is most important,” Brown says. “But ultimately we’re all interested in what someone looks like. It’s what we do when we’re dating or meet someone. I didn’t ask my wife her medical history before I decided to marry her.”